‘The Rebbe’s Son’ by Isaac Babel

The blood and guts and comedy of war, the messiness of revolution, the yearning of the human soul for nourishment, these tales are cut from the truth of what new and women do in war and how revolutions change the goalposts, however briefly, for what it means to be human. Reminds me of Moorcock’s wonderful Colonel Pyat novels, these Babel romps have been part of me since my twenties. Alive with a swashbuckling, frolicking sincerity that belies so much current ‘academic fiction’ like the perfect dead prose of Ben Marcus and Ben Lerner… and the few, few words of this short story will make you cry the endless tears of what came next.

First published in English in Red Cavalry, 1929, latest edition from Penguin Classics, 2005